2021 Niki Marangou PhD Prize: the winners!

The result of the 2021 competition for the Niki Marangou PhD Dissertation Prize was announced at the beginning of the the Society's event on "The Greek War of Independence in Greek Cinema" (https://21in21.co.uk/events/past-events/), on 28 May 2021. The panel of judges consisted of:  Professor Georgia Farinou-Malamatari (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Professor Georgia (Zeta) Gotsi (University of Patras), and Professor David Holton (University of Cambridge).  Their unanimous decision was that the Prize should be awarded jointly to:

  • Dr John Kittmer (King's College London), for his dissertation entitled “Ritsos as Reader: The Poetics of Eclecticism in the Mature Work of Yannis Ritsos”, and
  • Dr Ioannis Stamos (University of Birmingham), for his dissertation entitled “From Literary Criticism to Propaganda: Intellectuals, Culture, and Politics during the Metaxas Dictatorship (1936-1940)”.

The judges commented as follows on the two theses:

John Kittmer

In his doctoral thesis “Ritsos as Reader: The Poetics of Eclecticism in the Mature Work of Yannis Ritsos”, John Kittmer offers an exemplary study of Ritsos’s intertextual poetics, which at once illuminates the central role creative and critical reading played in the construction of his work as well as his self-positioning in relation to other poets. Although Kittmer does not examine Ritsos’s whole oeuvre but chooses to focus on a number of selected compositions, his thesis offers a refreshingly new approach to Ritsos’s work, which re-configures questions of poetic “influence” or “anxiety”. Kittmer deploys the notion of intertextuality and reader-response theory as his main theoretical tools and makes original use of Ritsos’s poetry and novels alongside biographical information, his correspondence, criticism, translations, and occasional interviews.

The thesis examines three modes of reading: the reader-critic, the reader-translator and the reader-poet. It offers illuminating close analyses of specific poems; unearths parallels with other poets, in particular Whitman and Cavafy and their imaging/viewing of the human body; explains the mechanics of Ritsos’s translation tactics, and traces through a multiplicity of materials the evolution of Ritsos’s relationship to the Left and the limits of its doctrines across a very long period of time, from the mid-forties to the poet's death. Overall, the thesis offers a new understanding of Ritsos’s poetry as the outcome of an intense and ongoing exchange with other poets. It could lead to independent studies exploring further the three aspects of Ritsos’s reading practice presented here.

 

Ioannis Stamos

In his doctoral thesis “From Literary Criticism to Propaganda: Intellectuals, Culture, and Politics during the Metaxas Dictatorship (1936-1940)”, Ioannis Stamos examines the ways in which “cultural operators” (critics and literati) who wrote for four periodicals published during the period of the Metaxas dictatorship – Pnevmatiki Zoi, Nea Politiki, To Neon Kratos and I Neolea – engaged with the discourse and political objectives of the Fourth-of-August Dictatorship.

The thesis is divided into four parts, which explore central themes of these writers’ contributions, mainly literary criticism, essays, and reviews: “The Past” (its uses and historical representation), “The Nation” (essence, culture, land, language and organicism), “Authority and Hierarchy” (matters of order, elites and charismatic leadership), and “The Future” (the Third Hellenic Civilization and “the Youth”). These topics are ingeniously handled as a whole and examined in the context of the cultural politics of Fascist and Nazi regimes, which not only exerted control over the artistic field but also conducted politics as a form of art.

The nuanced readings of the primary sources, in combination with the biographical sketches of well- and lesser-known intellectuals who contributed to these periodicals (in the Appendix), shed light on the political antecedents and the post-1941 position of the Fourth-of -August-Dictatorship and its supporters. Overall, this is an enterprising thesis which explores complex issues showing facile assumptions to be partial or misleading and offers its readers a comprehensive account of this important period of Greek history as well as of the ideological shifts that followed the German invasion. The whole thesis, suitably edited, could in due course become a book.